The man who is accused of having provided material for chemical weapons was arrested in the south of France where he met his family for the christmas holidays, reports Le Monde:
A Franco-Syrian, at the head of a shipping company, was indicted in France and imprisoned, suspected of having supplied equipment to the Syrian army, including components that could be used in the manufacture of chemical weapons , despite an international embargo.
The man, born in 1962 and living abroad, was arrested in the south of France, according to a source familiar with the matter at Agence France-Presse (AFP). "He had returned to France with his family for the holidays," she added.
At the end of his police custody, he was indicted on Saturday for "conspiracy to commit crimes against humanity, complicity in crimes against humanity and complicity in war crimes", as well as " laundering of war crimes and crimes against humanity, ”a judicial source told AFP on Sunday. He was remanded in custody, added this source.
This is the first time that an indictment has intervened in an investigation in France into suspicion of supporting the Syrian army, according to the source familiar with the matter.
The acts with which he is accused began in March 2011, the start of the civil war in Syria, and would have continued until January 2018 or June 2019 depending on the crimes concerned, the judicial source said. The man is suspected of having provided support to the Syrian army through the acquisition of materials and components used directly for the surveillance and repression of the population, despite the international embargo.
"This man is accused of having, through a company based in different places in France and the United Arab Emirates, participated in the supply of means to various state structures of the Syrian regime responsible for the production of non-military weapons. conventional ”, developed the judicial source.
Among the materials provided are items that may have been used in the manufacture of chemical weapons, said the source close to the file.
Investigations in France on this Franco-Syrian, whose identity has not been specified, began when he was placed in 2016 with his shipping company on the blacklist of financial sanctions established by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), an agency dependent on the US Treasury. The company was suspected of having shipped goods through Damascus, in violation of the international embargo.
On the basis of information collected by the Central Office for the Fight against Crimes Against Humanity (OCLCH), a preliminary investigation was opened in June 2017. The investigations were then entrusted to investigating judges from the judicial court of Paris in January 2018.
In April 2021, three NGOs - the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) and Syrian Archive -, which had lodged a complaint with the constitution of civil party, obtained the opening a judicial investigation in Paris on chemical attacks perpetrated in 2013 in Syria and attributed to the regime of Bashar Al-Assad. These are attacks in August in Adra and Douma (450 wounded) and in eastern Ghouta, where more than a thousand people, according to US intelligence, were killed by sarin gas.
These NGOs had already taken justice in Germany in October 2020 for the facts of 2013, but also for a sarin gas attack perpetrated in April 2017 in Khan Cheikhoun, between Damascus and Aleppo. In April, they also filed, along with a fourth NGO - Civil Rights Defenders - a complaint in Sweden for the attacks in 2013 and 2017.
Bashar Al-Assad’s regime has always denied the use of chemical weapons and claimed to have brought all its stockpiles under international supervision after an agreement reached in 2013 with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). But the OPCW urged Syria for more transparency at a meeting in November 2021, criticizing it for not declaring its stockpile of chemical weapons and for not welcoming international organization investigators to its soil.